Archive | September, 2012


30 Sep

Sukkot is a harvest holiday celebrating the harvesting of vegetables and grains. While there is not much symbolic food, there is a lot of symbolism in the way food is eaten during this week-long holiday.

Eating in the sukkah:

The word sukkah means “booth” or “hut.” During sukkot, it is symbolic ot eat meals in a sukkah to remember the forty years of wandering in the desert that the Jews enduring after leaving Egypt.

Inviting guests:

It is customary on sukkot to invite guests for meals to welcome people to your abode.


An etrog is a large cirtus fruit that looks like a lemon. While you don’t eat this during sukkot, I’ve heard of jams, marmalades and other excellent dishes made after the holiday ends. One interpretation is that the etrog symbolizes the heart and is shaken with 3 plant species (palm symbolizing the backbone, willow representing lips and myrtle referring to the eyes) and to show all the different people and strengths a community needs to flourish.


Recipes Inspired by Coffee Day

29 Sep

How can I explain this love affair I have with this jolt of java?  I’ve been drinking and enjoying coffee for a long time now, and with every cup, it seems to get better and better. When I say a long time, I mean since I was about four years old.  I remember seeing my family making and enjoying coffee and little me just knew I needed to be drinking and enjoying it as well.

As a child, juice boxes and animal crackers couldn’t even compare to the smell of coffee.  My family gave in and started making me kid-friendly cups of coffee, meaning it contained more milk and sugar than anything else, and a few drops of coffee— nothing over a teaspoon or tablespoon, for the flavor of course.  I was hooked, and sipping this sophisticated drink with the women of the house made me feel like a queen.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve gradually progressed from a few drops of coffee to the real deal.  And I must confess that in my typical work day at the restaurant,  I can drink anywhere from 2-4 cups, whether it’s plain coffee or some kind of espresso-laced beverage.  One can often find me ordering a red eye (coffee with a shot of espresso) or a chai latte with a shot of espresso (known as a dirty chai lattè).  Trust me; I know that my coffee consumption is borderline crazy.  If I don’t have coffee for whatever unknown reason, sadness, accompanied by a headache begins to take over.  I must admit that it’s comforting that I’m not the only one with this addiction.  The coffee industry is a $20+ billion dollar one. That’s a LOT of caffeine.

You would probably think that coffee would only be used in sweet recipes, but when mixed with other spices, ground and brewed coffee can be used in a variety of ways to add flavor to ingredients such as meat, poultry and sauces.  In honor of Coffee Day, here are 3 chef-inspired recipes using coffee.  The next time the question of what to make for dinner comes up, reach over to that coffee maker and add a jolt of Joe to your dinner table.

Coffee-Spiced Rib Eye Steak


1/4 cup chili powder
1/4 cup finely-ground espresso
2 tbsp. Spanish paprika
2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
1 tbsp. dry mustard
1 tbsp. kosher salt
1 tbsp. ground black pepper
1 tbsp. ground coriander
1 tbsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. ground ginger
2 bone-in or boneless rib-eye steaks
Canola oil
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Combine all spices in a medium bowl.

Preheat a cast iron pan over high heat. Brush steaks with canola oil and season liberally with salt and pepper. Rub 2 tablespoons of the coffee rub onto 1 side of each steak. Cook the steak, rub side down until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip the steak over, cook for 2 minutes and then transfer to a baking sheet and cook in the oven to your desired internal finish. Remove steaks from the oven and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.

Brown Sugar and Coffee BBQ Sauce


2 tbsp. olive oil
1 3/4 cup white onions, small diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. jalapeño, seeded and minced
1/2 cup. (packed) dark brown sugar
2 tbsp. chili powder
2 tbsp. mild-flavored (light) molasses
2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp.  ground cumin
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with puree
1 cup low-salt chicken broth
1 cup freshly brewed strong coffee or 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 cup hot water


In heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat, add oil. Sautée onions, garlic, and jalapeño until tender, about 7 minutes. Add brown sugar, chili powder, molasses, cilantro, and cumin and stir until sugar dissolves. Add in crushed tomatoes with puree, broth, and coffee and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered til sauce thickens slightly and is reduced to 4 cups, stir often, about 35 minutes. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Recipe adapted from Bon Appétit.

Photo by Greatpatton, via Wikimedia Commons.

Coffee Spice for Burgers


1 tbsp. freshly-ground coffee
2 tsp. (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tsp. freshly-ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt


Combine all spices in a bowl and mix evenly. Prepare desired burgers and liberally season with coffee rub. Grill to desired internal finish.

Recipe Adapted from Bon Appétit.

Why I add a hint of cumin to almost everything I make

28 Sep

When I was a little girl, cooking was always around me. As a Syrian Jew, I spent hours watching specialty Middle Eastern food being made. I always wanted to help make the complicated Syrian recipes like lachamajin, kibbe, and sambusak I watched my grandpa spend hours making. Each dish was made with such precision and love and yet at the same time when it came to quantities, the response was “a little bit of this, a little bit of that, and then taste until you get the exact flavor.” These responses both invigorated and discouraged me. I was excited that I may one day be able to nail that exact flavor, but fearful that maybe I didn’t get that gene and maybe I would never make the food like my grandpa did.

As I have started cooking, I have gotten a better sense of the recipes and flavors. I have also built more confidence in asking questions and tweaking recipes as I create my food. Food and cooking are still always around me and I still love them. Even though I know my fractions, I am still able to use cooking to learn other skills that are more practical for my adult life.

The recipes I include in my cookbook are those close to my heart, that me to my family and as a result, ethnicity and religion.

Photo by Sanjay Acharya (Own work) GFDL  or CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Breakfast Thoughts

26 Sep

“The way you make an omelet reveals your character.” -Anthony Bourdain

What kind of omelet will you be making for breakfast, and how will it reveal your character?

Photo by Paul Goyette (CC-BY-SA-2.0), via Wikimedia Commons

Jordana’s Venezuelan Arepas

24 Sep

Making arepas is an inexpensive way to put a quick yet filling sandwich together for yourself and your family, and it has now become a worldwide recipe and culinary sensation. This South American favorite, which is largely corn-based, is split in half and stuffed with various fillings, such as cheese, meat, shrimp, and vegetables. Arepas can be grilled, baked, boiled or fried, and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and as a snack as well.

Recently, I rolled up my sleeves and had the pleasure of getting an up close and personal look at making some handmade Venezuelan arepas with my friend Jordana.  I was amazed that such a simple dish could be so delicious and so easy to personalize.  I love that you can stuff arepas with your favorite fillings and change it up depending on your mood when you make them.  I’m always up for experimenting, but I usually stick with ham and cheese.

Arepas Recipe 

Makes about 12 small arepas and produces 5-6 servings.


2 cups 100% pre-cooked white corn meal
2 cups warm, filtered water
1 pinch salt
2 tsp. canola oil
2 cup warm filtered water, reserve for arepa making

Dough Preparation: 

Heat up 2 cups of water until warm to the touch.  You must be able to keep your fingers in it.  Dissolve a pinch of salt in the water.In a medium-big bowl, place the 2 cups of corn meal and slowly begin to pour in the 2 cups of warm water, while thoroughly mixing the corn meal by hand. Squeeze out any clumps so the mix is even. The mix should not be too wet or too dry. If it’s too dry, use some of the other warm water adding very little at a time and mixing evenly. Make sure to mix in the meal that gets stuck on the sides of the bowl.  Let the dough rest for 3 minutes.

Making the Arepas:

The extra cup of warm water will be used to wet fingers and dough while forming the arepas. This prevents the dough from drying, sticking to hands, and breaking.

Take enough dough to form a golf-sized ball and then carefully flatten the ball by hand until it’s 1/2 inch thick.  Wet fingers in the water and smooth out the edges and any rough spots so it’s disc-shaped (about 3 inches in diameter).

Place the arepas in the pan or on the grill, without letting them touch (they’ll stick together).  
Cook for about 3-5 minutes on each side at medium heat, until a light brown hard shell forms on the outside.
  Once both sides have a light brown shell, turn the heat to low and cook for another 10 minutes on each side or until they’re slightly firm. When the arepas are cool, slice down the middle, leaving the shells as though they were an oyster; you don’t want to separate them completely.  Spread a little butter (or mayonnaise) inside each half and stuff with cheese, meat, or whatever you desire.  Some of my favorites are ham and cheese, pulled chicken, pulled pork, pulled beef, avocado with mayo, black beans and cheese, and scrambled eggs and cheese.

Eat while warm and enjoy!

Photo by William Neuheisel from DC, US (Arepas con Chorizo) [CC-BY-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Cookbook Create is hiring Fall Interns!

24 Sep

Are you a college student interested in breaking into NY tech? Obsessed with food and cooking? Cookbook Create is looking for some amazing interns to work out of our Soho office two days a week.

Cookbook Create allows you to organize recipes from family and friends, and make you own full-color cookbook with lots of photos. Whether you are searching for a one-of-a-kind gift, looking for a way to preserve family recipes, or want to publish your own cookbook, your personality will shine through in your print-on-demand cookbook.

  • Passionate about food and cooking
  • Excellent writing and research skills
  • Dedicated, ambitious, fun personality
  • Self-starter who likes to get things done
  • Fluency in social media tools including facebook and twitter
  • Experience with WordPress a plus

The internship is unpaid but we will pay for you to attend a few evening classes at General Assembly or Skillshare.

Please email a short note, resume and three writing samples to with “Internship” in the subject line. Be sure to include links to your Twitter handle and personal blog, or any others blogs you’ve contributed to.

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Mario Batali

19 Sep

Happy Birthday, Mario Batali!

Today is celebrity chef, restauranteur, and Italian food aficionado  Mario Batali’s birthday.  We all know he is a super successful chef, has written several cookbooks, is a Food Network star and has more than 15 restaurants under his belt. He is best known for wearing his signature orange Crocs and for the massive, multi-level Italian food emporium, EATALY, that he and his business partner and friend Joe Bastianich opened in 2010 in NYC. Here are 5 things you didn’t know about him:Mario Batali never graduated from culinary school.  He was enrolled in Le Cordon Bleu cooking program in London but dropped out due to “lack of interest.”  He went on to complete an apprenticeship with world renowned Chef Marco Pierre White and then completed 3 years of culinary training in Northern Italy.

Last week, the Mario Batali Foundation, along with Books for Kids, opened a new library at the Goddard Riverside Day Care Center in Manhattan. This was the third library that the Mario Batali Foundation funded.  Batali and the foundation are extremely passionate about helping children learn to read.  He said, “[t]o be able to help children read…to give them this fundamental building block to a successful life is remarkable.

Mario Batali and Jimmy Fallon are golf buddies and play regularly in New Jersey.  They are also buddies off the course.  Batali has appeared on Fallon’s show several times, and Fallon is a huge supporter of the Mario Battali Foundation.  Fallon also likes to imitate Batali’s grocery store runway walk.  He tells a funny story about grocery shopping with Batali in Ireland, where he made Batali buy a grill pan from his own cookware line.  Batali still had to pay full price, even though his picture was on the label.

He successfully participated in “The Food Stamp Challenge.” Along with being a Iron Chef, Mario Batali also partnered with the New York City Food Bank to help spread awareness about possible food stamp cuts; the cuts were clearly a pressing issue because food stamps help put food on the table of 46 million Americans.  For $31 per person/per week, Chef Batali and his family took the challenge and experienced what millions of families go through by making delicious and nutritious meals using only the food stamps can buy.  Even creating a “menu” threw this chef off, as he had to create a grocery list and stick to eating 3 meals a day.  The end result?  He and his family had to cut out luxuries, but raising awareness and walking in the shoes of millions of Americans was more important.  He encouraged others to partake in the challenge, as well.  If Mario Batali can do it, so can you.

He (not so) secretly wants to be a rockstar.  And apparently he plays a mean air guitar while he cooks.  Rock on, Mario!

Photo by Charles Haynes (Charles Haynes’ flickr account) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Mario Batali: By the Numbers

19 Sep

Today is celebrity chef Mario Batali’s 52nd birthday. You might know him for his stint on Iron Chef America, his orange ponytail and the trademark orange Crocs on his feet. In his honor, and for your viewing pleasure, we bring you Mario Batali: By the Numbers. Happy Birthday, Mario!

16 Number of restaurants currently operating as part of the Batali brand
2009 The year Batali made his motion picture debut, voicing “Rabbit” in Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox
9 Number of cookbooks he has published
79.2 Batali’s win percentage as a contestant on Iron Chef America (19 wins, 5 losses)
Number of social justice groups that have partnered with the Mario Batali Foundation
50,000 Total square feet of Batali’s Eataly food emporium, located in Manhattan

Photo by USDA photo by Lance Cheung (Flickr: 20120524-OSEC-LSC-011.JPG) [CC-BY-2.0 ( or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Happy Birthday, Mario Batali

19 Sep

Rosh Hashanah

17 Sep

Rosh Hashanah Food Traditions

The Leek omlette, Swiss Chard omlette, Black-eyed peas, and Dates have two interpretations. First, all are eaten as foods that relate to the words they represent. For example, leeks are called Karsi, which is related to the word karet meaning to cut off or destroy. The blessing that goes with the leek omlette says, “[m]ay all your enemies be cut off.” They are pretty much the old food puns, like eating lettuce to say “lettuce” (“let us”) have a good new year. The second interpretation is that these are the foods the Gemorrah, a written Jewish text, recommended Jews eat on this holiday.


Pomegranate seeds symbolize merits. The blessing says “[m]ay your merits be many like the seeds of a pomengranate.”

Challah and sugar:

Challah is the bread that is always blessed on Jewish holidays. On Friday nights for Shabbat, challah is dipped in salt to remember the destruction of the second temple, but on Rosh Hashanah, challah is dipped in sugar for a sweet new year. The challah is also round, symbolizing the cyclical nature of the year and creation.

Fish or lambs head:

Sometimes Rosh Hashanah will feature a fish head on the table. This is to sybolize Rosh Hashanah as the head, or start, of the year. It is a fish because fish symbolizes fertility.

New fruit:

Every year you are supposed to try a new fruit, representing the new year. In the past few years, I’ve had quince, rambutan, and Chinese melon. It’s an excellent way to explore different types of ingredients and cultures.

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